# Arithmetic

## A Challenging Divisibility Puzzle: Spoilers

(A new question of the week) Sometimes we give only minimal help on a question, to let a student puzzle over the problem and learn to figure it out herself. That may be enough, or we may go back and forth for some time, guiding her thinking until she finds the answer. In the latter …

## A Fermi Problem

(An archive problem of the week) A couple weeks ago, in discussing the value of estimates, I included one example of a (very simple) Fermi problem: one in which it is necessary to invent the data as well as the method of solution. Today, I will examine one answer in which we dug deeper into …

## Estimation vs. Other Ways to Check Subtraction

(An archive question of the week) Last time I looked at reasons for learning to estimate. In searching for answers on that topic, I ran across a question that touches not just on reasons for estimation, but on other ways to check an answer, and on some of the specific ideas we will be looking …

## Estimation: The Value of Imprecision

Many questions we have received have been about various aspects of estimation. Often this topic has been downplayed, because we tend to think of math as being all about precision; but it is essential in many applications, sometimes because there is nothing else to do, and other times because exactness wastes effort. I am starting …

## What is Multiplication … Really?

I want to close out this series on multiplication with a very different kind of question. We have seen that multiplication of natural numbers can be modeled as a repeated sum of the multiplicand, taken the number of times indicated by the multiplier; and that the terms “multiplier” and “multiplicand” reflect only this model, not …

## What is Multiplication? How (Not) to Teach It

Last time we looked at the roles of multiplier and multiplicand from several perspectives. This time, I want to focus on one extended discussion about how children should be taught to think of multiplication.

## What is Multiplication? Multiplicand and Multiplier

We have received many questions over the years about the meaning of multiplication. When we multiply , what are we really doing? This can confuse not only students and their parents, but also teachers. The next couple posts will deal with various aspects of this question.

## What is a Fraction, Really?

(An archive question of the week) One of the things I have learned as a Math Doctor is that it can be dangerous looking up a definition online. Sources vary — not because they are wrong, but because definitions depend on context, so you can easily find what appear to be contradictions because they refer …

## Dividing Fractions: How and Why

Fractions have always given students trouble, and we have had many questions about working with them. Even looking only at division of fractions, I have had to restrict my attention to a few sample answers. These show the reasons for the standard method, presented in a variety of ways, together with some alternative methods.

## Challenging Rate Questions

(New question of the week) A conversation last week went through a number of interesting questions, starting with a couple on percentages, and moving into some that I would call rate questions. I will extract these, which I think will be useful for others. (The rest could, too, but there was just too much there …